‘I abducted baby because I’ve been barren for two years’

Of the four children that 25-year-old Sadiya Babale was blessed with in her 10-year-old marriage to Yusuf Aliyu popularly known as Babale, only her last two issues gave her and the family serious cause for worry.

As fate would have it, their third child passed away shortly after birth, and when Sadiya conceived the fourth, she suffered prolonged illness, walking in and out of the hospital in search of cure. At a point, she managed to get out of hospital admission after undergoing blood transfusion and receiving 6 bags of drips.

About fifty days ago, Sadiya survived the predicament with the delivery of a bouncing baby girl. But soon after her birth, the baby who was named Khadijah took ill, thereby dashing her parents’ hope of getting respite. The little girl was diagnosed with stomach problem. Unsettling though, the sickness did not make Khadijah’s family to give up hope on their newest member.

But on the eve of marking the baby’s 40th day in the world, a female stranger from Bauchi State, whom Khadijah’s mother was barely acquainted with abducted the baby and threw the family into a state of confusion.

How it happened

On 16 August, 2010, Sadiya had gone to visit her next door neighbour when the friend’s co-wife, Hanne, entered the house in the company of a female visitor, who was just arriving from a journey. The nursing mother recalled that shortly after they exchanged pleasantries with Hanne and the stranger who was introduced as Ikilima (Hanne’s niece), she went to drink water. Sadiya said she heard Ikilima making inquiry as to whether “I was not fasting when she saw me drinking water.”

Because Sadiya was outside, Ikilima’s aunty offered to explain that Sadiya was nursing a new-born baby. “To my hearing again, the lady asked if the baby was still alive and Hanne answered, yes. She further asked: ‘Has the baby clocked forty days?’ and she was told, no, ‘it was just 37’,” Sadiya recounted.

Ordinarily, the tone of the inquiries would have elicited suspicion in the nursing mother but they didn’t, because according to her, she left Kahdijah at home. “So, I thought all the questions were spurred by curiosity on the part of Ikilima, who had not seenthe baby then,” she guessed.

After a while, Hanne and Ikilima took their leave while the nursing mother returned home.

But late in the night around 10pm the next day, Ikilima visited Sadiya’s house. “I asked her who she was and she explained that she was the visitor who met us at my neighbour’s house alongside Hanne the previous day,” she recalled. “Did Hanne follow you?,” Sadiya remembered asking the lady, who answered no, saying she visited the next door house before subsequently decided to say hello to Sadiya.

As soon as they settled inside Sadiya’s room, Ikilima yanked Khadijah from her mother and began to play with her. When the baby started crying intensely, Ikilima asked if she was sick and the mother told her of the child’s health condition since she was born 38 days earlier. “She is having stomach ache,” she told her visitor.

About thirty minutes after, Ikilima left. But early in the morning the next day, she returned to the house, according to Sadiya. “She met me and my younger sister, Auta, chatting. We greeted and she asked me if I slept the previous night. My sister became curious and asked what could have deprived me of sleep and I explained to her how sick Khadijah had been. I also turned to Ikilima, who had already wrapped Khadijah in her arms and said: ‘I managed to sleep because she was treated at the chemist.’ On hearing that, she expressed surprise how I got out late night after she had left,” said Sadiya.

“She then told us that she wanted to buy recharge cards and asked where she could get them. After directing her to the place, she proposed to go with my daughter. ‘Has she been taken out before? Please, let me take her out today,’ she said.”

Once they were out, Auta and I equally went into my neighbour’s house. But even before we sat down, I pointed out to my sister that I was not comfortable with my daughter in the hands of a stranger. My sister queried me for allowing someone I didn’t know come that close to the baby. But I explained that she was not a total stranger, that she was Hanne’s niece. So she became calm and said there will be no problem then.”

But after a while, Auta gave the whole idea a second thought and said it was still risky. It was at that moment that Sadiya sent Auta and her neighbour’s children to go after Ikilima and the baby. On inquiring at the recharge card sales point, they were told that nobody with such a description was ever seen that day, not even one carrying a baby.

The unknown

The last time Hanne set eyes on Ikilima was the day after her arrival from Bauchi, as she was said to have taken her since that day to the residence of another relation at Bachirawa area, a few kilometers away. But before she was taken to Bachirawa, Ikilima had on the day she arrived, identified the residence of the nursing mother through an innocent child. It was gathered that she could not go into the house that at the time because people were praying at the entrance.

Equally, the inability of the recharge card vendor and neighbours to identify her or discover the baby was due to the fact that, when Ikilima went into the house, Sadiya said she wore a light veil, but as she was going out, she had brought out a giant hijab from her bag, under which she allegedly concealed the baby. And unknown to her Bachirawa aunty, Ikilima had disembarked from the Bauchi-bound vehicle she was said to have boarded after the children that accompanied her to the park had bidded her farewell and turned back. Finally, it was not known that she was coming from the park to commit the alleged act.

How she was caught

Sadiya(the child’s mother) said she cried until she was unable to shed any more tears. “We spread the news to our parents, mosques and in no time, our house was parked full with sympathizers. People began to pray for Allah to spoil Ikilima’s plot and cause the baby to be returned to us,” she said. Hanne, who earlier nursed misgivings about the charges against her niece, quickly realized she had been fooled. Quickly, calls were made to relations in Bauchi and any other place the alleged abductor might run to.

To monitor Ikilima’s movement, Hanne reportedly placed a call to her, asking if she had arrived home and she in turn was said to have disclosed that she was about entering Bauchi. When Weekly Trust spoke with her two days after her arrest, the 19-year-old suspect said she is married to a mobile policeman attached to a unit in Port Hacourt, maintaining that she stole the baby because she had been married for two years without a child. “People scold me about it. And that is why I took the baby,” she said.

Ikilima denied having any intention of selling or using the baby for ritual purposes. But Khadijah’s mother said she would not fall victim to any more lies. The family said when the baby was returned to them at Bachirawa police station, she was pale and all the veins in her head were visible. They said she had to be treated at the hospital, although according to them, the baby was still not well.

The Kano Command Police Public Relations Officer, SP Baba Mohammed Azare said the suspect was still being investigated and that she will be charged to court soon. The police spokesman also cautioned parents against leaving their children in the company of strangers.

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